In a world where the term "sales pitch" often conjures up images of door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen or overly enthusiastic infomercial hosts, targeted selling is the secret weapon that separates the savvy sales teams from the spray-and-pray amateurs.
In this article, I’ll slice and dice targeted selling to show you what it looks like, when you can use it, how to build a profitable strategy and how to automate it.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
1. What Is Targeted Selling?
Targeted selling (or target account selling) is a sales approach that hones in on specific, high-potential prospects rather than casting a wide net to capture anyone and everyone.
For example, imagine you're selling software solutions to businesses. With a targeted selling approach, you'd research and pinpoint companies that not only need your software but also fit your ideal customer profile.
You'd then craft personalized messages and pitches that speak directly to their challenges and goals, which could mean addressing their industry-specific pain points, demonstrating how your software can streamline their processes or even referencing mutual connections to establish familiarity.
Targeted Selling Example: Salesforce
Salesforce is an excellent example of targeted selling. They segment their customer base into various industries, such as healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, etc.
Then, Salesforce tailors its CRM solutions to address each industry's pain points. For example, they offer healthcare providers tools to manage patient relationships and financial institutions solutions to improve engagement and compliance.
Salesforce sales teams work closely with potential clients, leveraging data to personalize their pitch. They demonstrate how Salesforce's CRM can solve the specific problems the prospective customers face.
Plus, they produce a bunch of webinars, whitepapers and case studies to prove their expertise.
Even after a client is onboarded, Salesforce keeps engaging them with industry-specific updates, so their CRM remains relevant as their industry changes.
Wait, Doesn’t This Sound Suspiciously Like Account-Based Marketing?
Yep, ABM and targeted selling do have a few things in common (and can be used in tandem).
However, their approach and scope are different.
For example, ABM involves both your marketing and sales teams. Targeted selling is all about your sales professionals. The ownership isn’t shared with target account selling – it’s all in your sales team’s hands.
There’s also the issue of scale. ABM is more resource-intensive; you only use it for a small number of leads who have the potential to become huge deals, so the acquisition costs are warranted. You can reuse targeted selling on a larger pool of high-quality leads.
Finally, you use account-based marketing to build long-term relationships with (often) buying committees. When you use target account selling, you focus on closing each account as efficiently as possible.
But let me show you what that looks like in practice!
2. Common Target Account Selling Tactics and Use Cases
Personalized Email Outreach in Targeted Selling
For example, let’s say you’re researching a potential lead and find that their company recently expanded its operations.
In the outreach email, you’d mention this expansion, highlight how your product or service can support the company's growth and suggest a meeting to discuss solutions.
“Subject: Helping [Company] Thrive in Your Expansion
Hi [Recipient's Name],
Congratulations on the continued growth and success of your company! [Add more details about the expansion.]
Expanding operations is a significant achievement but often comes with unique challenges and opportunities. At [Your Company Name], we specialize in [mention your product or service area], and we've had the privilege of assisting companies like yours in optimizing their expansion strategies.
Our [Product/Service] has a track record of helping businesses simplify operations, improve efficiency, and scale growth. Specifically, we've worked with companies facing similar expansion challenges as [Company], and our solutions have consistently delivered impressive results. [Reference solutions and companies.]
I would love to discuss how our expertise can benefit [Company]. Are you available for a brief call or meeting in the coming weeks? During our conversation, we can explore your expansion goals and how [Your Company Name] can support you.”
The target account selling tactic “hiding” here is researching and referencing specific details about the lead's situation to create a resonant message.
(Ideally, you already use this in your cold outreach personalization.)
Industry-Specific Content Marketing
Another common tactic in targeted selling is creating content tailored to specific niches' needs and challenges. (I say niches and not industries because the goal is to be as specific as possible – that’s what resonates.)
Sure, the whole IT industry may be feeling shakeups, but you’re only talking to a specific segment. Their mileage will vary.
For example, suppose you work at a software company targeting companies in the healthcare sector. Using this tactic, you’d create industry-specific whitepapers or case studies highlighting how your software has benefited companies in the healthcare sector.
Then, you’d promote this content to targeted prospects in the healthcare industry.
A great example of a targeted whitepaper comes from TalkDesk and AWS.
Account Segmentation and Targeted Selling
Grouping leads into segments and customizing sales approaches for each segment is a staple of targeted selling. (It should be a staple of any sales strategy, but I digress.)
For example, a B2B sales team categorizes its leads into different segments based on company size, industry or area. Then, each segment receives tailored messaging and offers that address their unique pain points.
All types of sales are actually social, but we’ve only coined the term since the dawn of LinkedIn because it’s the best way to find the right stakeholders and contact them directly. Long gone are the days of gatekeepers!
The challenge is that your connection request note (or DM) has to be enticing, so social selling involves using social media to establish relationships and credibility with prospects before transitioning to a sales pitch.
Your leads get warmer and more susceptible to hearing you out.
For example, you’re working on an account where the main lead is the marketing director. First, you reach out to them on LinkedIn. Then, you engage with a few of their posts, waiting for the perfect “in” when they mention having challenges your software could address.
Finally, you slide in with a request to hop on a call.
Customized Demos and Trials
As salespeople, we live and die by how much we customize demos to each prospect. You want to provide hands-on experiences that demonstrate the product’s value in a way that directly addresses the prospect’s pain points.
For example, suppose you’re selling accounting software.
Instead of providing a standard demo walking them through the graphs they’ll use to track their cash flow, you ask the prospect what they’re currently struggling with.
It turns out, they can never get clarity on the way their expenses are sorted.
Knowing that, you can tailor the demo to showcase that functionality of your product. Sure, you’ll cover everything else, but you’ll start with the critical pain point they want to solve.
An example of a customized demo with Storylane.
Referrals, Upselling and More!
Even tactics like getting sales referrals to keep the book of business growing with the help of happy customers are a part of targeted selling. Similarly, you'll be performing targeted selling when you identify the best cross-selling and upselling offers to suggest to your existing customers and boost their LTVs.
Even sending timely follow-ups when you know the lead just experienced something that pushes them towards your product is a part of it!
3. When Should You Use Targeted Selling?
You’ll naturally use aspects of targeted selling in your day-to-day cold outreach and sales processes. However, there are some cases when you’ll want to pull out all the bells and whistles, including the following:
- Complex or High-Value Sales: When dealing with complex or high-ticket offers, where the sales cycle is longer and involves multiple decision-makers, targeted selling will help you build deeper relationships with the whole buying committee.
- Similarly, for industries with long sales cycles, such as enterprise software or industrial equipment, targeted selling helps maintain engagement with prospects over an extended period, building trust and addressing evolving needs.
- Niche or Specialized Markets: In niche industries or specialized markets, where the customer base is relatively small, targeted selling allows you to tailor your messaging to the specific needs and pain points of these niche customers instead of just vagueing about broader industry problems.
- Account-Based Marketing (ABM): If your company adopts an ABM strategy, targeted selling is a natural fit because ABM focuses on a select group of high-value accounts on which you can use targeted selling tactics.
- Lead Prioritization: Targeted selling helps prioritize leads in your pipeline. Once you identify leads with the highest potential for conversion, you’ll spend more time working on deals with a high likelihood of closing.
- Product Launch or Expansion: If you’re launching a new product or expanding into a new market, targeted selling will help you approach early adopters or ideal customers most likely to embrace your offering.
- Competitive Markets: If you’re in a competitive market where differentiation is crucial, targeted selling positions you as an expert capable of demonstrating how you help with customers’ specific challenges.
- Customer Retention and Upselling: Targeted selling is not just for acquiring new customers; it can also be used to retain and upsell existing customers. Personalized approaches can uncover new opportunities with existing clients.
All in all, you can deploy targeted selling whenever you want to maximize the impact of your efforts, whether because you notice the quality of your leads is going down or you’re simply not happy with the conversion rates.
4. Build a Targeted Selling Strategy in 7 Steps
Step 1. Define Your ICP
If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you might as well keep talking to yourself. The first step to any good sales strategy – targeted selling included – is understanding your ideal customer profile.
Start by identifying the characteristics of your ideal customers. Consider factors like industry, company size, geographic location, job roles, pain points and buying behaviors.
Then, expand into understanding what their day-to-day looks like – what do they struggle with? What do they aspire to become or do? Get to know the actual people behind the persona.
Step 2. Audience Segmentation
Once you’ve narrowed down your ICP(s), it’s time to distribute them into targetable categories with something in common.
For example, segment your healthcare customers further into categories like "small clinics" and "large hospitals.” You can also break it down further into considering the stakeholders like “therapists with private practices” and “administrators in hospitals.”
You could even create personas like "Dr. Lisa, Clinic Manager" and "Mike, IT Director at XYZ Hospital" with detailed profiles.
Step 3. Understand the Market
This is the obligatory part where I say you can’t skip market research. Yes, you think you know what these people are struggling with, but when was the last time you walked a mile in their shoes?
Talk to some of the representatives, attend industry conferences, read up on the publications they read, etc.
Do anything to understand what it feels like to be them in this day and age, from overarching organizational goals to day-to-day challenges.
Additionally, analyze your competitors. How are they addressing the same audience? And, most importantly, how can you address them in a more relatable way?
Step 4. Build and Prioritize Lists of Leads and Accounts
Start with the overarching accounts you will target and then identify specific leads within them. Your goal will be to understand the account itself – as well as the leads and stakeholders you plan to talk to.
Then, assign a priority score to each lead or account based on their fit with your ICP and their potential for conversion.
For example, you’d assign a higher score to a large hospital in a major city that closely aligns with your ICP, as they represent a significant opportunity.
Step 5. Choose Your Sales Channels
I wrote a complete guide on picking the right sales channel based on the account and stakeholders, but in a nutshell, the channels should align with where your audience is most active.
For example, you might try LinkedIn to connect with hospital executives and share industry insights, but take it over to email when you’re ready to communicate with them directly.
On the other hand, you may find it hard to connect with executives on LinkedIn, so you’ll look into the conferences they attend.
Step 6. Personalize Your Outreach
No matter if you plan to send a cold email, a message on LinkedIn or call the lead, you can’t do it with a generic value prop. Remember: the whole point of targeted selling is understanding the persona and selling to their specific requirements.
For example, your email subject line for a clinic manager would be "Simplify Your Clinic Operations with Our Software," while using "Transform Hospital Efficiency with Our Solutions" for a hospital IT director.
Bonus points if you have a track record, metrics or any other way of proving that you’re worth talking to.
Step 7. Test and Refine Your Targeted Selling Strategy
A/B-test different approaches, channels or messaging variations. Then, as you get customer feedback, iterate and refine your approach.
For example, based on feedback from clinic managers, consider adding new features to your software that address their operational challenges. Similarly, based on your engagement stats or feedback, you might do a 180 on your LinkedIn content or cold email subject lines.
5. How to Automate Your Targeted Selling
Ahh, sales tools – what would we do without them? Fortunately, if you already have a good sales enablement or cold outreach stack, you can use it for targeted selling. At the very least, you will need the following:
- A B2B contact database to find the right accounts.
- An email finder and verifier to get contact information for the leads.
- A CRM tool to automate workflows, store information and share it with the other tools in your stack via integrations.
- Outreach automation tools to automate outreach (preferably on more platforms than just email).
With that set, you’ll have everything you need to automate your workflow and only step in when a lead demands your attention.
You can get fancy with it, too, starting with setting sales triggers in Sales Nav and then automating the rest of the workflow so you get email addresses for the right accounts on auto-pilot.
Know Your Targets and Read Their Minds
Once you understand what makes your ideal accounts tick, you only need to do some digging and use the right tools to close the best deals.
This guide has shown you the ropes of targeted selling and now, I want you to get out there and test the methods we talked about.
There’s nothing like first-hand experience to turn you into a sales machine!
P.S. And if you need help finding your leads’ verified email addresses, try Findymail for free with 10 credits.